Aston Martin - Audio Medicine

George Johnson is a music enthusiast. His home hi-fi system, assembled over many years, is a constant source of enjoyment. His car audio system now helps him take his passion on the road.

Aston Martin - Audio Medicine


George Johnson is a music enthusiast. His home hi-fi system, assembled over many years, is a constant source of enjoyment. His car audio system now helps him take his passion on the road. We were fortunate enough to be invited to spend time with him and his Aston Martin.


George and I share a passion for music. During our interview, we shared music and our experiences of upgraded audio in cars. It was soon apparent that he had music in his background.


George’s half-Danish mother used to sing opera around the family home. His parents shared a significant record collection, which they played on a large Burl-Walnut veneered Pye “Radiogram”. This was an elegant piece of furniture with built-in valve amplification, radio tuner & Garrard turntable feeding an enormous corner-mounted full-range Wharfedale speaker. Radiograms were the precursor to the “Music Centre” of the 70’s. George himself was encouraged to learn the clarinet while at school and remembers being bought a Bush “piano-key” portable cassette player on which he listened to favourites, such as Diana Ross, Herb Alpert and a variety of classical music (such as Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Clarinet Concertos).


George’s real passion for listening developed when he went to boarding school. He was allowed to take some of his records to school. These included excellent rock music by Free, Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, and others. Over the years, George developed a broad musical interest. He was always excited by good hi-fi sound. However, when he moved into a small flat in London in 1983, he had little space for a separate system. He invested instead in a Trio CD player from Lasky’s (played into an existing Pioneer ‘Boombox’). 


Eventually, George, who studied Chemistry at university to PhD standard, joined a large pharmaceutical company, where he headed up a team that looked after Quality Control testing of new chemical entities intended for clinical trial assessment. His team was also responsible for examining the stability of these materials under extremes of temperature, humidity and light (to establish the product’s shelf life in different climatic zones). This is all vital work, and many of us will have benefitted over the years from his team’s efforts.


During this time, he became a regular customer of the Hi-fi shop Billy Vee Sound Systems in South East London to upgrade his growing system. His system consists of top-of-the-range 500 Series Naim components and a pair of B&W 803 D3 speakers (see complete listing at the end of this piece).


In 2011, George’s father was sadly diagnosed with terminal cancer. During discussions with his father towards the end of his illness, George asked him what regrets (if any) he’d had during his 83 years. His father had always wanted a Jaguar car. However, his humble father didn’t wish to be affected by such a show of opulence. Following his father’s death in 2013, George decided to honour his father by purchasing (and enjoying) an Italian Red Jaguar F-Type 3.0S convertible. This experience, coupled with a desire to fulfil his own ‘wish list’ purchase eventually, finally led in 2019 to him investing in the Aston Martin Vantage that he owns today.


George took his car to FOUR MASTER Enhance Car Audio & Security in Sittingbourne, Kent, initially to have a dashcam fitted. This began a relationship and a journey that has seen George return many times over the past four years to discuss audio upgrades to his pride and joy.


George had purchased the vehicle fitted with Aston Martin’s factory-fit “Premium” audio system. An OEM amplifier with DSP ran a system based on speakers manufactured by Ask.  At least the speakers carry the brand name, unlike many other speaker brands in cars! George didn’t choose or pay for this audio upgrade; it came as part of his chosen car. This was just as well, as George was less than impressed with the sound. The system sounded woolly and muffled. The bass was flabby, and there was no soundstage to talk of.


After discussing this with Simon Lywood at Enhance, it was decided that something needed to be done to improve George’s car’s audio experience. As George says, “Life is simply too short to suffer bad audio”!


As with all performance vehicles, the Vantage contains a lot of electronic systems with little space left for additions. However, Simon has played a blinder. His first challenge was to mount a pair of Audison Thesis TH 1.5 II Violino tweeters in the existing (very confined) tweeter location on the dashboard.  This was extremely difficult, and there is no publicly available information on how to do this (as the dashboard is fully pre-built in the factory before installation). As far as George is aware, Simon was the first person in the UK to fit these large tweeters in this location successfully, and this has avoided the need for a complicated ‘A pillar’ tweeter build.


While there, Simon removed the centre channel speaker, which added nothing except further compromise any semblance of soundstage that existed before the car was upgraded. A further complication in the search for audio nirvana is that the front woofers' factory mounting positions are under the dashboard. These fire towards the shins of the driver and passenger. It would require speakers with extraordinary dispersion characteristics to ensure that the vehicle’s occupants get the maximum directional mid/low-range frequencies reaching their ears, coupled with the exceptional DSP custom tuning abilities offered by Audison’s bit Drive software. Fortunately, George’s chosen speaker, Hertz Mille Legend 1650.3, works exceptionally well in this respect. These, coupled with a pair of Audison Thesis TH 3.0 II Voce 3” mid-range speakers mounted in the standard positions in the doors, ensure the entire audio spectrum can be balanced perfectly.


As standard, a subwoofer is mounted (in a thin-walled plastic enclosure) behind the passenger seat. This has been removed to make room for an EISA award-winning Audison Forza M 12.14, 12-channel amplifier and an Audison SR 1.500 mono amplifier. The SR provides 500 watts RMS to a Hertz Mille Legend ML 2000.3, 8” subwoofer mounted into a robust custom-made fibreglass and plywood removable cabinet (manufactured in-house at Enhance Car Audio & Security) in the corner of the luggage compartment.


The Forza amplifier channels are allocated to run all speakers actively. The under-dash woofers are run from two pairs of bridged channels to add extra control. Simon installed a pair of Eton UG MB 100 PX coaxials in the rear quarter panels for ‘backfill’ sound. While doing this, he discovered that one of the original OEM speakers he removed was covered entirely with some wadding used as sound damping. This had been stamped to leave a hole. However, the factory had failed to remove this unwanted wadding.


As is customary with any FOUR MASTERs install, the whole car was treated with Skinz sound-deadening products and the speakers re-wired with good quality oxygen-free copper cable.


The front end of the system is pretty interesting. George strongly believes in using a high-quality source in his audio systems and prefers listening to high-resolution (Hi-Res) audio (including Hi-Res streaming). If you visit the blog page at, you can read George’s excellent explanation of what Hi-Res audio is and the sonic benefits compared with frequently used compressed MP3 music. As a scientist wrote it, it is not necessarily for the faint-hearted, and you may find the brief introduction we included in issue V an easier read!


George streams Hi-Res music from Qobuz at home and was keen to use the same service on the move. The standard head unit in the car is Hi-Res capable, although this can only be grabbed from the vehicle’s MOST bus, for which a proprietary MOST processor is required.


Alternatively, he can stream via Bluetooth using the considerable talents of an Audison B-Con Hi-Res Bluetooth Receiver and streamer. This feeds audio directly into the amplifier via an optical Toslink cable. Bluetooth is not generally associated with Hi-Res streaming, but the B-Con is certified by the Japan Audio Society as being rather good at it. Whilst George occasionally streams from his iPhone (please note, the Apple iPhone Bluetooth codec cannot stream Hi-Res music losslessly), he prefers to feed Hi-Res music from an Astell & Kern Kann Max portable DAP (Digital Audio Player) into the B-Con (using the superior LDAC Bluetooth codec).


An Audison DRC AC remote controller has been cunningly installed in an area in the centre console. The panel it is mounted in was fabricated from layers of the box that the Forza amplifier was supplied in (covered in matching leather) and looks OEM factory-fitted. The DRC AC is programmable depending on the features the driver wishes to access. In George’s car, he uses it to control the master volume and the subwoofer volume. The amplifier can store different settings in presets, and the DRC AC allows George to quickly switch between driver or driver and passenger presets.


Having had a guided tour of the system. It was time for my favourite bit. George invited me to sit in the driver’s seat using the driver-prioritised listening setting of the DRC AC. Before we started, George and I had a browse through a playlist of 32 tracks he had put together for me. I had asked for five, but as is quite normal, George struggled to whittle his favourite tracks down to just five, so he told me I was at liberty to do that for him.


I wanted to pick songs that we had not listened to before in the magazine, and fortunately, there were plenty of these. We probably listened to most of them while Photographer du Jour, Lauren, did her best not to look bored while she waited for us to finish.


I chose “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors. This begins with a very dramatic thunderstorm. It was so perfectly rendered that I was tempted to get my umbrella! A Fender Rhodes piano came in, panned to the left while a cymbal played high and to the right with a guitar sitting physically below this when I closed my eyes. The image even ventured outside the bounds of the vehicle in parts. This is always a good sign of great equipment installed well. Being incredibly picky, I would have preferred the snare to be a bit heavier, but this is a subjective preference, and the track is quite gentle, too. I know this could easily be addressed if George felt the need. The rain associated with the thunderstorm of the opening bars is audible in all the quiet sections, and I don’t think I have noticed it running all the way through the track before.


George was particularly keen to demonstrate “Green Shirt” by Elvis Costello. We first listened to a CD-quality version and then the Hi-Res version from the Astell & Kern DAP. The difference was immediate and dramatic, with the drum kit sounding far more live and precise on the Hi-Res version. Precision, rhythm and timing were exceptional.


I could have sat beside George in this car all day, swapping tunes. The detail revealed in the few Hi-Res tracks we listened to was phenomenal.


I salute George and Simon for achieving the result they have in this car. I am sure the system will be listened to for many years to come.


George’s Top Five Tunes:

Riders on the Storm – The Doors

Green Shirt – Elvis Costello

Brush with the Blues - Jeff Beck

Video Games – Lana Del Rey

Pale Green Ghosts – John Grant


George’s home Hi-Fi system


·       Streamer: Naim Audio ND555 Streamer

·       Power supplies for Streamer: 2 x Naim Audio 555 DR (Digital & Analogue)

·       Pre-amplifier: Naim Audio NAC552DR

·       Power-amplifier: Naim Audio NAP500DR

·       Music Server & CD Ripper: Naim Audio Uniti Core

·       Speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 803 D3

·       System Rack: Naim Audio Fraim

·       Speaker Cable: Naim Audio Super Lumina

·       Interconnect Cable: Naim Audio Super Lumina

·       Mains Cables: Naim Audio Power Line

Car Audio Upgrades Made Easy

Find out what our partner, The FOUR MASTER Network, can do to bring Hi-Fi quality to your car. Simply put some brief details into the form below.

Not ready for that yet? You can use the same form to book a demonstration at your home, place of work or with your local FOUR MASTER